Along the lengthy arc of frustration and suffering there seems to be a couple of questions that become primary. I am not suggesting that they should be primary, but merely that they, at the very least, vie for preeminence. Simply put, when we are caught in unfavorable circumstances we tend to wonder the same things. How long will this take? What could happen? Why is this happening? What am I supposed to do? What have I done to deserve this?
These are pretty stock reactions to chronic pain, ongoing troubles, or perpetually unfortunate circumstances. For Christians, I should add, this same line of questioning can accompany prolonged seasons of spiritual turmoil and temptation as well (I don’t believe this is talked about often enough or with enough openness among followers of Christ). If there is a common denominator to be found in these responses, it seems that the desire for knowledge and understanding is a fairly universal one. Granted, we all want problems to be done with, but at a certain point, in long-running predicaments, we feel like there is at least a measure of emotional relief in knowing what exactly the point is to all of our weariness. The problem is this: life is rarely that neatly sliced. If anyone would have a grasp on the power and purpose of suffering and laboring it would be Jesus, and yet we find even Him on His knees in the Garden of Gethsemane asking, “is there another way?”
I’ve been there, and more than once. I’ve peppered the sky with questions and demands and bargaining chips all to try and make sense of what was going on. And, just so I don’t cut the subject in half, the Bible tells us to cast our cares upon God, we are instructed to ask in the name Jesus by faith, we are told to release our worries through prayer and supplication; there are no shortage of commands and examples of people in dire straits pressing into the God of the universe because of their situation. But there is an internal danger in making a regular practice out of pleading with God over the same questions, looking for the same answers, and pretending that everything will be alright if we can just know why, what for, and how long.
There is a verse early in the book of Exodus that offers, what I believe is, a better way of seeing life. While we are so desperate to “know”, I think that our greatest danger is getting what we want. Wasn’t it the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that precipitated mankind’s expulsion from the paradise garden? So, the Bible, in its unique and living way, offers a paradigm shift for us. I gives us a piece of information from the perspective of God. Whereas we typically only see through our eyes the Bible helps us zoom out and look at a much fuller picture of how things actually are.
God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.
It was the last three words this morning that caught my attention once again. In thinking over past readings of Exodus I can remember seeing this text as significant, but it drilled into my heart in a fresh way this morning.
I would suggest this as an alternative point of view. Think about what would happen if you got every question answered that you had in those times of trouble. If a letter, post card, or email was sent to you by God to give you the answers you were so desperately seeking, where would that leave you? Equipped with an armory of information are you going to be “better”? Can you circumvent problems, escape situations, find rest in the most chaotic of moments? Not likely. But there is something mysterious that happens when we set aside our need to “know” and begin to search out what it means that we are “known”.
What happens when God knows? Liberation. Freedom. Redemption.
I think that we have a tendency to place far too much importance on what we can do in a situation and far too little on what God can. Now, we don’t articulate it like that, if we did we’d sound ridiculous. But, in our desperate cries for answers we can begin to cross the boundary from the realm of legitimate petition into illegitimate subversion. It is not easy to put our questions to the side, and I’m not saying there is no place for them, but they are supposed to be aired, committed into the hands of God, and then released. It is the act of “being known” that is much more unnerving, but it is also much more powerful.
Friends, wherever you find yourself today – in trial, temptation, turbulence, or tranquility – I encourage you to rest in, perhaps even bask in, the warm glow of the fact that God has not failed to see you. No matter how far done, no matter who your oppressors may be, no matter how dark it feels, no matter how troubled your life is – God knows you. And when He knows, there is always hope.